Is Aruba for us?

Old Mar 20th, 2007, 11:56 AM
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Is Aruba for us?

Hi there. I am planning an anniversary trip for my husband and I over Memorial Day weekend. Last year for our honeymoon, we went to St. Martin (french side) and St. Barts. We LOVED both islands.

We would get up every morning, go to the beach for a few hours, and then hop on our scooter (St. Martin) or in our jeep (St. Barts) and explore the island on our own.

I really want a place with a gorgeous beach, a nice room with a view, decent food, and a relaxed pace. We're not too big on nightlife (can take it or leave it).

I am looking at the Amsterdam Manor Hotel. We want to spend $700-1000 for 4 nights. I appreciate any info! Thanks!
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 12:13 PM
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Aruba is a no-brainer, no hassle kind of place. You can definely explore on your own and move about fairly easily. There is a great choice of restaurants and of course, Eagle Beach and Palm Beach are impressive. Hotels are all decent quality and the standard of living on the island is fairly high. You won't get that French flair in Aruba -- there is definitely more of a South American influence and, of course, it is VERY popular with North Americans. Amsterdam Manor is okay, there is a road separating the property from the beach. If you prefer quiet and uncrowded beaches, I would stay in the "low rise" Eagle Beach area. Aruba is about uncomplicated enjoyment.
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 12:23 PM
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Aruba is a fun safe destination with great beaches, friendly locals, very good restaurants and nightlife(casinos) not an expensive destination either. Scenery away from the resort area is not so good though. arid, flat & scrubby with cactus everywhere, Think Arizona with white sand beaches & deep turquoise blue water.
I would choose the Hyatt or radisson though, not sure if this matters to you but Amsterdam manor is okay but not 4 star quality either and across the street from the beach.
good luck
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 12:39 PM
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Agree with a lot of what others say but... Aruba is a very busy place. Lots of tourists and cars. You can relax but I would certainly not call Aruba a relaxed pace.

Take a look at the Cayman Kai area or East End area of Grand Cayman.
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Old Mar 20th, 2007, 06:40 PM
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Hyatt, Radisson and Marriott are very nice hotels on Palm beach. On Eagle beach, Bucuti is a small hotel that discourages kids. I think it would be quieter there.
Aruba has great water, sand, and restaurants. We had a good time. I also think that Grand Cayman would fit your bill as well.
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Old Mar 24th, 2007, 06:59 PM
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Thank God LvSun wont be going to Aruba anytime soon. Obviously they dont understand the island. My wife and I spent two weeks there for our honetmoon. It was absolutley the most relaxing thing on earth. We went back two years later and stayed at the Radisson. Incredible beach!! Make sure to book a reservation at the Flying fishbone, and specify a table in the water. Your table is just at the waters edge. There is very little on this earth that is more romantic. We took a picture that you can find on their website. Dont be discouraged, if you are looking for something that isnt touristy, or Over Americanized, look towards Aruba, the South American flair makes it a powerful vacation spot for relaxing.
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Old Mar 24th, 2007, 07:56 PM
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vtjaimevt....Humm...First, I am very curious about your screen name.. I am a Hokie, so I am wondering if your are a VT grad? I also like to figure out plates on cars....Having said that...

I am very curious about your honeymoon trip. I have been to St. Martin 3 times(over 14 years) and have always stayed on the French side..Orient Beach, the last time was last July. Funny how you felt comfortable on the scooter. Did you venture to the Dutch side? We prefer the French side.

Also, we are taking our first trip this year to St. Barts. We must have similar tastes.

Ok. I am prepared to be slammed by the Aruba lovers on this board...So, take this information with a grain of salt. Aruba was our least favorite island. There is no comparison b/n SXM and SB and Aruba. Aruba is VERY AMERCIANIZED and the food is so-so, again, IMHO. Did we have a good time? Yes, we did. The sunset sail was great and the Marriott Stellaris was good, as was the jeep tour around the island. The island itself is very dry with little vegetation unlike what you saw in St. Martin. Not sure about St. Barts, yet. The food is a good price, but again, I liken it to Myrtle Beach, SC, which I also avoid ( even living in VA). It is a very busy place and the cab drivers (that we experienced) were not that helpful and we do tip very well.
The most fun we had was on the KUKUKUNOOKOO bus tour AKA...the DRUNK BUS TOUR, which took a bunch of folks -various ages--from their hotels to 3 bars, dinner and a sunset toast at the California Lighthouse, in the reverse order, of course, and back to the respective hotel. That was a hoot!

Considering the days that you have to travel,,,remember that Aruba is just a bit away from South America and can take some time to get to.

Also, to get a feel for who is responding to your question and his/her/their credibility, click on our blue names to see our various posts.

Good luck. Wherever you end up, please do post a detailed trip report so that all may benefit from your travels!

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Old Mar 25th, 2007, 07:50 AM
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In Jan, we stayed at the Marriott Resorts in Aruba for five nights. Pleasant, but we enjoyed St. Martin and St. Barts more. Still, Aruba is worth going to. I think it would fit your bill.

If you are looking for a great bargain, check out Priceline. Some people have gotten Marriott Resorts $60/night. My jaw dropped when I saw it.

If you haven't yet, it would be to your advantage to at least learn about Priceline.
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 06:07 AM
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I am a Hokie, too!

We loved St. Martin and prefered the French side as well. We went all over the island quite comfortably on our scooter, but definitely prefered the French side. We stayed at La Samanna, which is often slammed on this board. It was quite nice. Not perfect, but it was great for our purposes. I would not recommend it to people who don't plan to leave their resort.

On St. Barts we stayed in the home of a family friend, which was great (especially for our budget!) We stayed near the Saline beach, which was our favorite. We also enjoyed a hike we took to Colombier beach. It was lovely. We often would go to the store and grab a loaf of french bread, cheese and wine (and beers, for the beach!). This way we didn't break the bank eating out every meal, as St. Barts is quite expensive.

I am still at a loss as to which island to visit this May for our anniversary. I have researched myself to death and am even more frustrated than when I started! We want a nice-enough room, ON the beach, on an island we can explore on our own safely, for around $2k total (4-5 nights). It doesn't seem to exist!
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Old Mar 27th, 2007, 07:05 AM
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I have read a lot about the cost of St. Barts. Yikes!

I was rethinking Aruba. If you have a good deal on hotel and flights, I would do it. I was just thinking how long it took to get there from VA and the time that you had. I am only familiar with summer prices.

Sorry to be of no help.
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Old Dec 18th, 2016, 03:49 PM
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St. Martin and Belmond La Samanna were a complete disappointment and are not safe. If we knew what we know now after our week visit, we would NEVER have booked there. Starting with safety. St. Martin is not the same island you read about within recent travel recommendations, including Fodor’s travel guide (Fodor’s in Focus St Martin). The city of Marigot, once the crown jewel of the island, is economically distressed and has become a drug den and a home for gangs. The streets are littered with empty drug packets and trash. Except for a few buildings, most are falling apart. The fact is that the French side is in the middle of severe social unrest and there are billboards encouraging the fight for property rights. In addition to the billboards, you will hear from loud speakers, mainly emanating from parked cars, calling for the people to rise-up and revolt against the government. It is very disturbing to say the least. Despite these warnings, we did climb the steps to Fort Louis and the views of the harbor are spectacular. However, you must keep in mind that this fort was built by slaves and the residents of Marigot do not embrace its barbaric history for obvious reasons. The poverty in Marigot and for the most of the island is heartbreaking. The anger is palpable and due to the economic crisis, there are few jobs for the island residents. Crime on the island is escalating and becoming increasingly violent towards visitors. Before traveling to St. Martin, it is imperative that you review the police logs ( so you understand that tourists are targeted. There are countless knife robberies that have led to stabbings and face slashing. Many of the jewelry stores and casinos have been robbed by armed masked men. Grocery stores are frequently robbed.

If you think you can escape this by taking refuge in your resort, you are wrong. Our resort, La Samanna, was attacked by four masked men, with one carrying an AK-47 assault rifle. They held a young girl working at the store at gunpoint and successfully robbed the onsite jewelry store located directly across from the hotel lobby. They escaped in a white van that they had stolen the night before. The armed robbers had by-passed the security gate by entering and leaving the resort down an unmanned dirt access road. This all took place within 50 feet of our suite. Soon after the robbery, thirty French Gendarmerie (armed swat officers in riot gear) stormed and locked-down the resort. The Gendarmerie lined the main road in front of the resort and were actively sighting passengers in cars through their gun sights. The resort was closed for about three hours as they searched the premises (including the kitchen) for suspects. In the afternoon, A police helicopter flew overhead searching for more suspects. The narrative from the resort was that it was an “unsuccessful smash and grab” and once again the front desk lied to their guests. The papers indicate otherwise and the guests who got caught up in this mess (including us) know the truth. The excessive show of force by the Gendarmerie is because of the type of weapon used to rob the store (assault rifle) and the potential of this weapon to cause great harm to resort staff and guests.

As for La Samanna, let me start off by saying it is no Four Seasons and there are many better choices throughout the Caribbean. It is important that you do not pre-pay to get a lower rate. They will stick you in the least desirable suite (i.e. in front of a beach bar with tent) even though there are other rooms available. We immediately complained and we were relocated to the cliff side of the resort (same style suite). After our check-in hassle we walked down to the beach bar to have lunch and safely arrived 30 minutes before the restaurant closed. We ordered our food and then the staff immediately proceeded to dismantle every table around us to set up the area for a wedding. It was ridiculous and it inherently made us very uncomfortable and rushed. When the staff started rolling tables off the deck and giving us dirty looks we decided to leave without eating. This was our first 30 minutes on the resort.

We loved our suite. The plunge-pool suite is a very nice setup and we greatly enjoyed the deck. We also loved the little cottages throughout the resort. However, the grounds could use a little attention. We found in our $1,100 suite (which went up to $1,900 the next week for Christmas) that the television did not work. Worse is sort of worked but froze every 10 seconds causing you to have to change channels until it permanently froze and needed to be re-booted. The front desk promised an “engineer” to work on it but they lied and eventually admitted it would never work. They did offer us an upgrade to a presidential suite located in the main building. However, although greater accommodations, the “presidential suite” it is not as nice as the little cottages located on the resort and we declined the upgrade. After two nights of broken sleep my back was killing me. The bed was like sleeping on a lumpy door. We later discovered that the king bed was two ratty twin beds pushed together (see pic). How can this be in a king-bed suite at a high-end resort? We also struggled getting a down alternative for our bed. They gave us a few very light quilts but never enough.

For some bizarre reason the front desk does not operate on the same system as the spa. They could not look up and did not inform us of spa appointments we booked 4 months ago. There is no information in your welcome package and no message the night before. It added stress and we almost missed our second day appointment at 10:00 AM (opening of spa). However, it must be said that the massage was very good.

We went thinking that St Martin would be the epicurean capital of the Caribbean and we were excited to explore the island. The food was generally awful and very expensive to boot. Most of the restaurants are dirty and located in questionable areas. You spend half of your time deciding if you should go to that area at night. La Cigale (recommended by La Samanna) is located on the back porch of a seedy motel, offers no parking, and you will find that their credit card machine is broken because they want to paid in cash. The food is so-so and the atmosphere includes barking dogs and a mosquito invested bay (bring bug spray). Le Santal (also recommended by La Samanna) is on the boarder of Marigot and you should not go there at night. There are police reports of tourist muggings in this area. The food at breakfast and lunch at La Samanna was fine but the dinner was not editable. Be extremely careful of the bottled water supplied in rooms. We found many bottles had already been opened and we think the resort has a questionable supplier. It was not until the end our stay we finally found a few gems on the Dutch side (Copecoy) that were as wonderful as expected and not a 35 minute drive away from the resort. If you still decide to go (I don’t know why you would) check out Mario Bistro at Porto Cupecoy. The grocery store nearby is also a great resource, although expensive, for wine, cheese, and bread. You should also visit Grapevine at Hope Estate (past Grand Case). Incredible selection of wine, foie gras, bellota, jams, French chocolates, and truffles (highlight of trip). In fact, the appropriately named Hope Estate is the only upcoming area on the entire island. La Sand is probably the best French side option that is near the resort, but their deserts are really bad (pre-prepared).

Orient Beach is low-rent dump and not worth the hassle. It is a narrow beach lined with rows of faded beach chair rentals. Car break-ins are very common in this area so ensure you leave your car unlocked, windows down, and NOTHING in it (even a bag with towels). Robbers are not selective; they just break windows and pop trunks with crowbars looking for unattended bags in cars. Make sure you take your car rental contract with you.

Finally, don’t bother with the hotel shuttle from the hotel (~$140 round trip). The resort is 10 minutes from airport ($25 cab). If you plan to tour the island a car rental is by far more economical since a ride to Orient Bay will cost ~$50 each way. Driving can be frustrating since there are many lunatic motorcycle riders and lots of traffic in Grand Case, Marigot, and particularly Philipsburg.

In summary, do your homework and don’t rely on TravelAdvisor and Fodor’s guides glowing reports of resorts. The best recommendation is through a friend or someone you know and trust. La Samanna may work for some, some return, and some may enjoy the grime of an impoverished island; but our experience was very stressful and the resort does not care. They just hope another American or European will arrive with a full wallet tomorrow. You must decide if a trip to La Samanna is worth the risk.
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